Sunday, August 08, 2004


Neighborhood Vanguard

Even the bleakest of times may have their lighter moments.

During those awful days of total government collapse, lawlessness and looting, as I have already mentioned somewhere in these blogs, young men took it on themselves to defend their neighborhoods.


This incident happened in the early afternoon of one of those days. Someone with an 18-passenger bus full of loot was making his way through the streets. He was challenged by some of the boys but didn't stop. They fired at all four tires; he kept going. However, the shots and the funny noise those tires started making brought many people of the neighborhood out – most of them armed! Seeing that he had no chance of getting away, he leapt from the bus and started running. He got away with a few kicks and slaps from the boys who let him run for his life leaving the bus and the loot behind!

For some inexplicable reason, the sight brought some joy to my heart.


The young men organized themselves into groups to take shifts at night duty. My two boys (24 and 14) and my three nephews who live next door (16, 18 and 20) had a night shift from 3 to 6 am. They were all armed with AK47 machine guns except the youngest, who had a revolver (there was no question in his mind about being armed; I thought a revolver was a "safer" weapon).

These young men stationed themselves at road crossings and arranged with others to signal every once in a while to each other with flashlights to make sure that everything was alright. They even agreed on a password.

I sat on a chair behind our main iron gate within hearing distance just to be close by and decided to spend the time listening to the BBC, as was the usual routine during those nights.

Less than an hour into their shift, I suddenly heard the unmistakable clatter of AK47's being loaded and shouts of "Stop"…"Friend"… and something. I was with them - gun in hand - in no time! There was this man, some distance away raising his hands as if trying to lift himself to the sky. His machine gun was hanging on his shoulder.

I went forward to see what all that was about. It turned out that this fellow had taken it on himself to make a tour of the "stations" like an officer would make his rounds. Unfortunately however, he had forgotten about the password!!!

I really didn't know whether to laugh or to be angry. The fool was so close to being killed – and it would have been murder by my own boys!

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